Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Blogger in Question

The gay blogosphere is a buzz with the recent revelation that (yet another) blog turned out to be an elaborate fraud. Because of these recent events, I feel it is important to offer up some honesty about my own blog. Knowing the pain and destruction that has come about from this other revelation, I feel it is only right that I am finally honest.

Here is the truth: I don’t actually look like Wonder Woman in real life. There – I said it. I hope that the healing can begin for all of us. What a weight off my back!


Such is the problem with the internets. They are more fantasy than reality. In the end, I was suckered into the fantasy of the phony blogger more than most.

I don’t want to rehash all of the details, but it basically boiled down to an individual creating an elaborate blog persona that s/he used for both a blog and private correspondence. We all marveled at how “somebody so young” and “so inexperienced” could create such dramatic and captivating prose. It turns out that “somebody so young” couldn’t. Instead, s/he cobbled together prose from other bloggers, newspaper columns, and short-stories on the internet, claiming them as hir own. This wasn't plagiarism in the sense of borrowing a clever turn of phrase or taking a writing shortcut. This blogger claimed other people’s experiences and memories as hir lived reality.

Blog readers became invested in hir stories and the appealing autobiography s/he created. Indeed, s/he walked away with some small departing gifts thanks to the generosity of hir readers.

Many people on the blogosphere are angry, most are sad, and everybody is very, very confused. The constant refrain is a desire to know the “truth.” Who is the “real” person behind the fictional one? There is evidence that this is not the first time s/he created a fake blog persona.

Conveniently, an explanation has been offered that involves, among other things, a type of dissociative identity disorder. There is also the statement that there is “one blogger out there” who can confirm the details of this new story. Perhaps this new story is the “truth,” maybe (most likely) it is not. I am not entirely sure it matters or solves the unanswered questions. The “one blogger who knows the truth” sounds like another internet phantom to me, but such is the way it goes.

Some people, though, have written me asking if I am that “one blogger” who can confirm the “reality” of the situation. They ask this question because I did have an extended e-mail correspondence with the blogger in question. Indeed, GayProf was more duped than most. With substantial embarrassment, I admit that not only did I care a lot about the nonexistent blogger, but I even developed an internet crush on that persona. Pathetic? Yes, a bit. I had no insight into the depth of deception at play. (Update: Based on comments on other blogs, it also seems that I was not alone on this).

Since the revelation has come out, I have read the comments and responses. One of the most telling pointed out that there was a certain will-to-believe among bloggers. No matter how fabulous, internet people are never “real.” Even when we do the best to present ourselves on-line, there is always a certain act of persona creation. We choose to accept these internet personas as truth because they fill some type of gap in our daily lives.

Certainly, this was the case for me. In retrospect, if I piece the story together, I notice that I was most drawn to the fabled person when I was also feeling the most lonely in my real life. I created a person in my mind as fictional as the one that the blogger created online. It was easy to fill in the missing bits of the story or to skip over the obvious inconsistencies (Of course, I have also done this same thing in real life. I am surprisingly willing to overlook untruths).

Yep, I was deceived, but I also wanted to believe at the time. I used some mighty poor judgment to be sure. In the end, though, a fake internet persona is hardly novel. If anything, the internet is supposed to be a place where we can experiment with such fantasies. I am sad that the blogger appropriated other people’s stories to live out that fantasy. That, to my mind, is the really dreadful part.

About a year ago, I started to wise up a tiny bit when things about the blogger just weren’t adding up anymore. Plans to meet in real life fell apart on two occasions, certain elements of the story were inconsistent, and I became convinced that the person on the other side of the e-mail was dishonest (though I still never imagined that the entire persona was fiction – It was that good). I stopped reading the blog or corresponding, but kept a link to the blog on my own blog because I figured the person involved was basically good, just really immature and inexperienced. That is where my (limited) knowledge ends.

Apparently the blogger continued to develop elaborate stories and events, most of which I don’t know. The blog made it again on my radar when it was supposedly the subject of an internet attack (It later turned out that the plagiarism had simply been exposed). I never knew anything about the second blog until recently.

So, where does that leave me/us? Alas, hopefully it leaves me/us a little wiser. We all like to imagine that we either have too much “street smarts” or too much “book smarts” to be fooled by such a scheme. In reality, people who pull off such elaborate masquerades have much more experience creating them than we have in detecting their deceptions. And, let's be honest, it doesn't even take all that much cleverness to pull off such a masquerade on a blog.

It reminds me of another such event in my life when I was in college. When I worked as the switchboard operator for a hospital (No, the switchboard didn't look anything like the one in the picture below. It was really just a giant phone), a new employee arrived in the accounting department. Let’s call him “Tim.”

Gosh, everybody just loved Tim. He had time and a joke for any one: secretaries, administrators, nurses, doctors, patients. His supervisors constantly praised Tim’s work and I think (though I could be wrong about this detail) that he even dated some of the women who worked there. Tim also had a sob story about why he was so grateful for his job at the hospital. You see, he had been through a messy divorce in some other state. His wife, that cruel harpy, was keeping him from seeing his own children! His job at this hospital meant so much because he was just putting his life back together. Everybody wanted to help Tim. We gave him gas money or bought him lunch. He was, after all, a great guy.

One morning the secretary in the accounting office opened the doors to find that the place had been ransacked and all of the cash that the hospital kept on-hand had been stolen. At first, everybody believed it was a simple breaking-and-entering. Well, we believed that until Tim didn’t show up to work that day or ever again. Tim, it turns out, had skipped town.

Many weeks later, the police revealed that “Tim” had stolen his real-life brother’s identity. Tim had worked in many offices across the southwest. He followed a common pattern of sticking around for a month or two, then robbed them blind. Nobody, apparently, ever imagined that Tim would do such a thing.

In terms of the blogger, I am not angry at all. In many ways, the recent events are simply a coda to disappointments that I discovered some time ago. The blog and e-mail correspondence that I had, though obviously fake in retrospect, served a purpose for me at the time.

None of the “truth” is good, of course. I hope, though, that s/he finds what ever it is that s/he wants. It would be nice, too, if s/he wouldn’t drag people into a nest of fabrications in that process. Hopefully hir motives in this case were not malicious.

In the meantime, don’t take any wooden nickels, people.


Alan said...

On the internet, no one knows I'm a cat.

Don't feel bad, dear GayProf (if you exist), you're clearly not the only one who fell for it this time, nor the time before this one (and however many times there were before that, which we don't even know about.)

pacalaga said...

I dunno, I think it's easier to create a whole fake person because most people think, "Who does that?" and accept what they read. It's a shame, truly. I'm sorry the situation caused you bad feelings.
Alan the Cat is a fantastic typer. He must be polydactyl.
If ever you meet me in real life, you will be comforted to know that I am just as lazy and boring in the flesh as I am online. XO

vuboq said...

Thanks for your honesty about being fooled. You weren't alone in that, fer sure.

btw, vuboq is *much* cuter in person. trust me. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Best Drag EVER!!!

baron-scarpia said...

This is not the first, nor the last time time such a stunt has been pulled. You might like to take a look at the story of Kaycee Nicole at - the deception practised was staggering.

I wouldn't blame anyone for falling for the deceitful blogger in your case. For one thing, I'm pretty sure I'd have fallen for it if wiser heads than mine did. It simply doesn't usually occur to anyone to question such things.

More than that, however, I think you're rather brave in stating outright that you made a mistake. That takes courage, and speaks well of you.

Mel said...

It's always disappointing, but having dealt with some serious crazy over the years - from an unstable, pathological liar housemate to one who had a major psychotic break, not to mention one or two similar experiences with internet people - I guess I'm not really surprised at the lengths some people will go to to create a fantasy world and suck others into it.

Of course, maybe if you grew your hair out, started doing some work with corsets, and invested in a good strapless pushup bra, you actually could look like Wonder Woman. I'm sure you could find some spangly tights on ebay. Unless, of course, you already have those.

Curtis said...

I've read you often, but I don't think I've ever commented before.

Well. Add me to the list of those he duped. I'm not so much angry as I am disappointed. This isn't the first time I've come across an internet fraud. I'm probably too trusting for my own good, and I allow myself to be hurt because of that. Nicky is just another straw on the camel's back and I find myself less and less trustful of anybody because of it.

The internet is such a wonderful way for those of us who are isolated to connect with "like minded fellows". I'm disappointed in the many ways it is abused. The thing is, I don't "he" is one bit sorry for what he did, just that he was caught.

I think I'd do better living in a cave without broadband.

CoffeeDog said...

It does suck to be duped, but I think only the good at heart are capable of being duped. The evils ones are out there playing each other.

Frank said...

Insightful as always. I didn't read the blog in question and had no relationship with the proprietor, so with the distance I have, I must say, it's fascinating to watch the fallout. I feel sorry for everyone involved, both those taken in and the con hirself.

You know, it is interesting the personae bloggers take on and how we interact with them. If you noticed in our email correspondence previously, I call you "GayProf." I just feel weird using your real name; that isn't the guy I "know," it's "GayProf" I know.

BTW, I'm now paranoid now that our meeting didn't pan out because you're actually a Norwegian housewife with three kids and a cat named Fluffy instead of an internationally-renowned scholar and beloved blogger. *hehe*

dykewife said...

first off, love, the beard gave you away the first time i saw your picture.

i think what diappoints me is that i know young people who can write like he supposedly did. they are talented and observant young people. it's also not unusual for people to withdraw from public internet because of stalkers making threats and such like. however, i didn't have the depth of experience with him/her as you did.

i am disappointed and angry. the people i choose to read, for the most part, have met at least one other of the people i read. i guess i expect people to be as honest as i am in their writing. i don't care if they write about only .0001% of their lives, so long as that .0001% is truthful and not stolen from other people's lives.

i trust to much, but i'd rather that than not trust at all...i guess.

tornwordo said...

I'm more angry with myself than anything. I love the "nest of fabrications" dig. Indeed.

Greg said...

At least you have the comfort of knowing you weren't alone in all this...well, I hope you have that. We all wanted to buy what Nicky was selling and believe that he was the real deal...

Of course, we've all seen scams in real life as well as online...but what kind of lives would we have if we chose not to trust anyone?

Anyway, you look like Wonder Woman in your heart, GP, and that's what truly matters.

afod said...

You don't look like Wonder Woman??!! GASP! I had been hoping to spot you one day, sporting those Amazonium bracelets or the Lasso of Truth hanging from your slim waistline, while I traveled through many midwestern funky towns. Alas, I'll just have to settle for the good looks. Truly a shame what happened with hir, but I am glad I never gave hir my address when he/she wanted to start a toy drive for my nieces after they lost their home in January to the tornado. And yet I felt horrible for doing that.

GayProf said...

Alan: It is interesting to me that people are really certain that this time s/he is truly sorry and even suicidal(!). Was the first exposure not traumatic? Or the second?

It's not that I don't have sympathy with what appears to be a troubled person. I also applaud that others want to "help" or forgive the blogger. I am just not convinced that the new story is really the "truth," verified by a "private journal." Let's keep in mind that one of the most memorable stories from one of the blogs was allegedly from hir "private journal" as well. After a little googleing, I found out about hir supposedly loyal, faithful dog (who I am guessing never existed at all). The real author's version can be found here.

One thing that compulsive liars learn early is that you never follow a lie with the truth. You follow it with an even bigger, more elaborate lie. And the new story is custom made for a new brand of sympathy and interest.

Pacalaga: Even with the plagiarism, it does seem like a huge amount of work went into this persona. Who has that amount of free time?

VUBOQ: There is no fool like an old fool. Well, except I am not that old -- but still.

Anon: Um . . . okay.

Baron: Thanks. I don't really care for the bloggers who are now claiming, "Well obviously I would never have been fooled." It was easier than they expect.

Mel: In many ways, I am glad this was contained on-line rather than real life. That would have been so much worse.

No comment on whether I own star-spangled panties.

Curtis: Sadly, s/he seemed to have a method to her madness. S/he targeted bloggers who were clearly feeling lonely and/or looking for those larger connections. This, of course, makes me feel even more pathetic.

In the immortal words of Cher, though, "We all forgive, we all forget, We just keep believing." Who am I to question the almighty Cher?

CoffeeDog: It does suck to be duped. It reveals that we are more vulnerable than we like to imagine.

Frank: Yeah, I understand why I am "GayProf" in your mind. Even when I know bloggers real names, their blogging handle tends to be my first reference.

I wonder why I didn't meet you in NJ. Huh -- Maybe I don't really exist after all.

DykeWife: That joke probably would have worked better if I had not previously posted pictures of myself.

Torn: I am angry and disappointed with myself as well. There was plenty of evidence that things weren't on the up and up. Those of us who had private e-mail correspondence with hir should compare notes. Giver hir penchant for plagiarism, it could be that our letters were simply being recycled. We might have all been writing to each other in complicated, mediated ways.

Greg: It's true -- It just isn't possible to not trust people at some level. That would leave us alone all the more.

GayProf said...

Afod: You were wise. It is a little scary to wonder what hir larger intentions might have been with all of this.

Alan said...

"It is interesting to me that people are really certain that this time s/he is truly sorry and even suicidal(!). Was the first exposure not traumatic? Or the second?"

Yup, that's been my reaction. I didn't know about this particular instance, but I definitely knew about this person's previous blog incarnation (I was the one who figured out that one was a hoax). The odd thing is that several people knew about the previous hoax and still got hoaxed this time. So, why believe this new story, particularly when it's designed (once again, like the previous ones) to elicit sympathy and attention?

I'll save my sympathy for people who actually deserves it, like the people who were lied to and/or had their words and pictures stolen.

GayProf said...

Alan2: My feeling is that the desire to accept the new story and/or to "forgive" the blogger is that it is a way for those who were fooled to feel that they are back in control of the situation. Our brains are hardwired to crave order and answers to make sense of the world. If there is a "good reason" why we were fooled, it makes it all feel so much better. That is why compulsive liars are also masters of being contrite. By giving our forgiveness we feel that we have accepted and resolved our feelings about the lies.

While the dissociative identity disorder is one (barely) plausible explanation, another equally plausible explanation is that this person enjoys seeing the "dumb gays" make fools of themselves over and over again. The dissociative story would simply be a new means to exploit our best intentions and solidarity with transgender people. This version of events would suggest a form of antisocial personality disorder. Both are mental illnesses, but only one will illicit sympathy from the queer community.

Whatever the "truth" might be, I look it as I would kleptomania. We all agree that kleptomaniacs are "troubled" and there are probably real and serious psychological issues beyond their control that make them steal. It would be quite foolish of us, though, to keep inviting a known kleptomaniac to dinner with our best silver no matter how "sorry" they were that they stole our soup ladle last time.

Finally, you and others have made reference to the first exposure of this person. Do you have a link to that story? I am understandably curious and would like to know more.

NG said...

You're not Wonder Woman? Dammit, I was hoping to borrow your lasso.

Alan said...

See, I would have said that people are so ready to forgive because either 1) they're much nicer folks than I am, 2) we've been conditioned to accept insipid psychobabble as an excuse for everyone's problems these days, or 3) people are generally good and it's tough for good people to imagine that people do stuff like this just for kicks, or 4) all of the above.

Regardless, I'm just a simple chemist, not a psychiatrist, and I don't even play one on TV, but I'm not sure any of the so-called psychological explanations/disorders being discussed actually remove responsibility from the person in question to behave in reasonable ways nor do they indicate that a person with these so-called disorders does not know right from wrong. So she's a man trapped in a woman's body. Big deal, we all know lots of trans folks and they're not liars and plagiarizers. They've dealt with and/or are dealing with their lives as best they can without screwing over other folks. The supposed explanation seems a little trans-phobic to me, actually.

Or maybe I'm just an uncaring, insensitive ass. That's also a distinct possibility. :)

Anyway, as for the previous episode in this gay drama, nope, no link. I simply notified regular commenters and readers of the blog in question that it was all phony, gave the evidence as I had it (knowing that there was no evidence that I existed either ... heh) and let them make their own conclusions ... which was pretty easy to do since the blog was taken down immediately. I didn't want to elicit any more attention and or sympathy for this person. (Plus I think it's generally best not to piss off the insane. I'd rather not wake up in the middle of the night with some bat-shit crazy chick standing in my back yard shouting at me.)

If you're curious, feel free to email me and I can provide more details.

baron-scarpia said...

I've now pieced together who this person was, and I can only confirm that yes, I did fall for it. I didn't often look at the blog, but I had no idea that it was faked. There was no reason to think so.

I actually think it's not so easy to lie on such a scale - after all, the culprit was caught. Twice. However, as Pacalaga pointed out, you don't expect it, and this is the major advantage such people have. Also, some people are just good at it. Let's face it, the culprit had practice!

Jen said...

I never read the blog in question but I have read about it posts lately. I wish I had read it. I agree with coffeedog, people who are trusting aren't suspicious and people who aren't are.

Chad said...

First, am I the only person who uses "they" as a gender-neutral pronoun?

Next...I have absolutely no idea what you're writing about, but I do wish it had occurred to me early on to at least elaborate certain details about my life. God knows reading my own blog as is can be a depressing experience.

Joey7777 said...

Gayprof believed him/her like he believed Mike Nifong. And wanted to believe both.

GayProf said...

NG: If ever there was a time when we needed that magic lasso, it is now.

Alan3: All of your theories sound plausible to this armchair psychologist.
Baron: Yeah, which is why we should be skeptical about the new explanation. After all, s/he knew that the end of the road was coming and had plenty of time to create and refine a new story.

Jen: It's not just that people are trusting, people like this blogger have developed skills to deceive.

Chad: The problem with "they" is that it gets confusing because of being plural. Although, in this case, it would not surprise me if this was a team effort.

Joey7777: Like Mike Nifong, Joey7777 enjoys making accusations with little evidence. Like Mike Nifong, Joey7777 has confused harassment with "justice." Joey7777 should take a hard look in the mirror and question why he has become so obsessed with this case. Unless you were actually one of the falsely accused, there is little reason for you to be obsessed with it. Why does it give you so much satisfaction to keep it alive? What type of cultural work are you trying to accomplish? I guarantee you it is not about "justice." More likely it is about confirming your world view (the same thing that you are so angry about other bloggers doing).

cheerful retard said...

Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor! YOU TOO!!! I'm still in disbelief...what is it now, three, four days later? I have over three years of saved emails that I would love to compare with others as the stories that keep coming out get even more and more elaborate and deceitful.

Roger Green said...

See, I only read you, and I know YOU'RE real. You are, aren't you?

Whereas everything I've written on my blog is total fiction.

BTW, I'm SO out of it that I have seriously no idea who the blogger was who duped you; ignorance is bliss.

Laverne said...

Do not, I repeat DO NOT buy your sofa/bed from Ikea. Oh man. I had the most comfortable sofa in the world; it was actually three pieces of my parent's "Sectional seating" from the 1980's. It was wide and soft, yet supportive. Many people, including myself slept on it in a pinch.

But no, I had to get something less dated. So I I bought what we now refer to as the "cruel couch." There is actually no way for a human being to be comfortable on it.

As a bed it's actually fine.

However. Ask me how many people have slept on it in the two years I've bought it. Go ahead, ask.

Two. I'm one of them. And the other? My mother.

Oh please, for the love of all that is sacred, don't go to Ikea.

David said...

A great post about a strange situation. I think the anxiety we feel comes from the desire to connect the Internet persona to what we imagine "the real" is. This individual seems to have played to that desire better than most, but in reality is it so terribly different from the You Tube sensation of a couple years ago, LonelyGirl15?